SAN RAMON -- The city of San Ramon offers a safe and healthy living environment, good schools, career opportunities, a healthy tax base and a very high quality of life, said Mayor Bill Clarkson in his state of the city address.

And although the city has been working on tackling its structural deficit, it has "developed a robust financial process" to determine budget cuts, "and the city finished the year in the black, adding funds to its reserve account," he said in a Feb. 20 state of the city speech to the San Ramon Valley Chamber of Commerce and community members at the San Ramon Golf Club.

In addition, the city was recognized this year as not only one of the wealthiest cities in the nation but as one of the 10 safest in California, he said.

It's also been recognized as "the number-one city in the state for those seeking jobs," with its low unemployment rate of 2.3 percent, he said, and with an enviable number of large firms relocating to the city, including Pacific Gas and Electric and Kaiser Permanente. Also, the city's residential property values have seen a dramatic improvement, with distressed properties making up 60 percent of the sales in San Ramon several years ago, "but now they make up less than 4 percent for both inventory and sales," he said.

Commercial leasing numbers are strong, too, with a 5 percent vacancy rate for Bishop Ranch Class A premium buildings and a 6 percent vacancy rate for the city as a whole, Clarkson noted. The city also saw a 44 percent increase in building permits in 2013 from the previous year and a 25 percent increase in permits for building improvements of more than $20,000 in value, he said.

"This is a clear indication that our business environment has had a remarkable expansion," he said.

In addition, he pointed to the city's accomplishments of last year. They include fully funding the city's retirement health care liabilities, he said, and the city entering into a revised City Hall development agreement that will result in a new 45,000-square-foot building and renovated library built and paid for by Sunset Development Company in exchange for 11 acres of city-owned property, which will not require taxpayers to take on more debt.

The city also authorized the hiring of four new police officers, working with partners on ongoing construction of Rancho San Ramon Community Park and a new Dougherty Valley elementary school and installing more than 5,000 LED fixtures through the city, which should save more than $200,000 a year, he said.

However, the city has a couple ongoing challenges, he admits. They include finding long-term solutions to bring back fireworks to the community and widen lanes on Bollinger Canyon Road and Alcosta Boulevard eastward toward Dougherty Valley.

And the City Council plans to establish its 2014 priorities at a March 10 meeting, he said. Yet he said, "it's important that we keep in perspective that our challenges are not about our needs, it's about our wants and how we can improve our amazing quality of life blessings."

Contact Joyce Tsai at 925-847-2123. Follow her at Twitter.com/JoyceTsaiNews.